Text and Image Photography

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In the Sultan’s Harem–Arab Days Gone By

In the Sultan’s Harem

When I dream at night, I see the Fly TWA posters that used to hang on our patio wall. Sure wish I had some–they’re worth $900. The poster, In the Sultan’s Harem, above is much less. It’s one of the rare photos I shot that’s sharp and compelling–the essence of Arab retro.

Oh, the good-ole-days of Arab culture seem to be long gone now–as women cover themselves up, albeit most in fashionable, colorful prints, that extend seemingly forever over the body, leaving only the hands and face to the elements.

This piece of text and image is classic Arab nostalgia, a time in the Arab lands when belly-dancers were as common as tabouli. As the strict Islamic tenants spread across the Middle East and North Africa, belly dancers are few and far between today. And in the rare cases you see them their bodies are completely covered.

When I was in Luxor, Egypt, I wondered how the dancers could stay cool in motion, all covered up in layers of long sleeve garments that extend from their heads to their toes. To be sure, they had the flowing outfits, but no mid-drifts nor see-through material. Oddly enough, though, the men who accompanied the dancers went shirtless.

If the pendulum swings leftward, the belly dancers are sure to return, but, at this point and time, no one really knows what’s going to happen. The harems could be gone for good.

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